Lavash: What Armenians ate if they could get it (excerpt #10)

The henna party Nazli gave for Annie is several weeks past. Annie’s wedding day has arrived and she is up in her small bedroom above her family’s kitchen. Annie is supposed to be dressing for her big day, but instead she is sitting, pondering much, and staring at herself in a mirror.

“Anahid Gregorian! Quit your daydreaming!” Mayrig hollered from the bottom of the ladder. “We don’t want to keep Uncle Dikran waiting. He’ll be here any minute for the ‘kidnapping’.”

I gasped and then chuckled. Unless I wanted to be blindfolded and paraded through the streets of Kemahcelli clad only in my underwear and barefoot, I’d better hurry. Squatting on the sleeping mat, I stroked the wide, silver and gold stripes on the smooth silk of my wedding salvars. Slipping them on, I pulled their drawstring tight around my waist. My heavy, cream-colored silk, floral brocade dress cascaded over my head and shoulders toward my ankles.

While I pulled the loops over the half dozen silk-covered buttons on the front of the dress, I studied the bride in the wardrobe mirror. Narow sleeves flowed smoothly over small shoulders to a collarless neckline and down a snug bodice to an ankle-lenth hem. Two slits in the skirt of the dress ran from hem to hip revealing the lovely gold and silver stripes of the narrow-at-the-ankle salvars. I smiled at my image. Loosening my braids, I brushed my hair until it shone. Pushing its glossy black, wavy lengths behind my ears, I pinned a gold-threaded lace scarf over my hair.

Turning slowly in front of the mirror, I studied the unbelievably stunning bride. Oh, how I wish Petros were here! I’m sure he would love this bride I see. Fastening my bracelet on my wrist and grasping my Bible, I backed carefully down the ladder to the kitchen. Mayrig was waiting for me in the sitting room.

“Anahid, you look lovely,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Here, I have a surprise for you.” She handed me a pair of cream-colored, silk-covered slippers.

Murmuring my thanks and sliding my feet over the soft leather soles of the curved-toe shoes, I showed her my sleeves.

“Well,” she said, “if Dikran appears this moment, he’ll just have to wait.”

After fastening the last button for me, she tipped a tiny bottle of rose water into the palm of her hand. With a smile, Mayrig dabbed droplets of the sweet scent onto my throat and wrists.

At the last dab, Dikran announced his arrival. “Annie, what a lovely bride you make,” Uncle’s voice boomed. “If only Petros could see you now!”

“Thank you, Uncle Dikran. This fabric is amazing and everything fits perfectly.”

“And now on behalf of Petros Hagopian of Pasadena, California, I kidnap you.” So saying, Uncle Dikran bound a blindfold around my head, picked me up, and deposited me on the seat of his cart.

As Uncle’s donkey clopped down our farm lane, Mayrig called, “Annie, the rest of us will meet you at the church.”

With much hoopla, the cart on which I sat sped into town and up and down its lanes. A kidnapped bride was supposed to wail and make a fuss about being stolen away from her parents. But I couldn’t wail. For some strange reason  this custom struck me as terribly funny now that I was the bride. By the time Uncle Dikran had finished the charade and stopped the cart, I was laughing hysterically with tears trickling from under my blindfold.

“Such a brave one!” he mumbled in my ear when he set me on my feet. Carefully undoing its knot at the back of my head, my uncle retrieved his handkerchief.

I looked down the aisle of our Protestant Armenian church. Faces of family and friends were blurred by the tears still rimming my eyes. As Hyrig walked me toward the front of the church, I silently scolded myself, Annie, your family has been planning this day for months. Struggling to settle down, I glanced nervously from face to face and from floral garland to garland of the decorated sanctuary. I remembered to smile my thanks to the women and girls who had helped.

With Uncle Dikran standing next to me holding Petros’ photo, our pastor led us through the wedding service. My uncle spoke Petros’ parts. But there was no kissing of the bride at the end or introduction of the couple as husband and wife. Such things would have to wait for a similar service in America with Petros present. Nonetheless, I had made a lifelong commitment to a man before God, my family, and friends.”

What a wonderful memory for Annie to cling to in the days ahead. The spring and summer months of 1915 would prove to be anything but joyful.